Double-Lung & Kidney Recipient
Melvin Morrison didn’t even realize he was sick – at first.
Melvin was an active man. After 15 years as a program director for the YMCA, he went on to teach high school English, coach football and girls’ basketball, and conduct driver license examinations. He was also always helping strangers – stopping to help them with their broken-down vehicles, giving rides and buying meals or gifts during the holidays for those who couldn’t afford them.
Then one day, at a routine checkup, the doctor started to quiz Melvin on his breathing, soon diagnosing him with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – a type of disease that scars the lungs. Melvin was shocked to learn his only option for survival was a lung transplant.
It was eight years later that he became really sick. He had worked hard to keep his body healthy enough for a transplant, but by that time, he was constantly tired and couldn’t walk far or stand for any length of time.
“I felt less than a man,” he recalled. “I had no independence. I was weak, frail and literally helpless. I wanted to be alone. I wanted more for my wife, because this wasn’t what she signed up for.”
He was deemed eligible for the transplant list, and just a week later, he received a call about a donor – but it wasn’t a match. A second call woke him up at 4 a.m. about another possible match – yet this one didn’t work out, either. By the time Melvin got the third call, he wasn’t getting his hopes up. But this was the call that would save his life. He received a double-lung transplant on June 14, 2012.
Six months later, Melvin became deathly ill again. This time, his kidneys were shutting down. He was hospitalized for three months. While he slowly worked back to health – and was even able to compete in the 2014 Donate Life Transplant Games – he still had to be on dialysis for several hours every week. It was during the Transplant Games that his daughter, Madelyn, offered him his only chance to get off of dialysis: one of her kidneys. She turned out to be a match, and Melvin received her gift on June 16, 2015.
It has completely changed his life.
“Receiving a transplant has enabled me to enjoy life again. I enjoy traveling with my wife and going to different places. I believe that I will see my kids become mature adults and have their own family. I look forward to that.”
Now, in addition to teaching, Melvin lives and gives by volunteering for LifeGift and CHI St. Luke’s Health – Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center’s Heart Exchange, where he served as president in 2017. Everywhere he goes, everything he does, he spreads the word about organ and tissue donation.
“Every year since my transplant, I will share my story with my high school seniors, and someone will come to me with questions or concerns about someone they know who is experiencing something very similar. As a driver license examiner, I share my story with those classes, too, and there is always at least one person whose mind I can change about organ and tissue donation.”
He has written to the family of the donor who gave him his lungs, feeling a responsibility to them: “I feel as though I have an extended family somewhere that I am to look after and take care of.”
But Melvin hasn’t heard back from them yet.
“I think I understand the purpose of paying it forward and why people don’t want to bring attention to themselves,” he said. Still, he adds, “I hold on to hope that one day I will meet someone from my donor family. I want to tell them how much I appreciate my gift and let them know that through me their loved one still lives.”